Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei Episode 5 – The Weekly Strawmen Deconstruction

Mini-editorial, covering some points, one at a time. No episodic notes, but a bunch of editorial notes.

Full Title: The Weekly Strawmen Takedown and Thematic Dismantling of Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei

Or: Can’t the action come already?

Being Tatsuya is Suffering:

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei / The Irregular at Magic High School episode 5 anime review - Shibata Mizuki adores Tatsuya

“My goal is energy generation, so I’m fine with being called out as inferior, which I am!” – Oh, what bullshit. No one in the world can handle all the processes for said energy generation on their own. Heck, at this point, as said in a prior episode, it’s one of the three great challenges – as such, it doesn’t matter how many processes he can or can’t invoke, it’s immaterial. It’d require a group effort. But, what can be done by one lone genius is a theoretical breakthrough – and we’re sure you’ll manage that, Tatsuya!

So yes, he has a lack of talent, but even if he was as talented as Miyuki who was the most talented in their grade (and thus gave the opening speech), he’d still be unable to do it himself.

Also, Mizuki, “Doesn’t it bother you being evaluated as if you have no talent?” – Those without talent at all aren’t at this school to begin with. Not all people with magic skill even make it in, and most people have zero skill. To the commoners, they’re all special.

Wait, am I accidentally watching some fanservice or hentai show? What is this? “You’re so amazing, I can’t believe it!” – I mean, this show is as far as it could be from a comedy, but it’s hilarious.

Yes, even Tatsuya can’t handle the hilarity of the situation.

The grades don’t measure us properly? Well, screw grades! She seems to have taken the complete opposite message than what Tatsuya had been saying last episode, which is, “Get bad grades? Work harder!” Heh.

Tatsuya sure has it hard! He just says a small sentence, and someone is bound to take it as a life-changing revelation! And then everyone looks at him and adores him, what a pain! And then, of course, his magic, his power? It’s not a gift to him, but a burden. Don’t you all feel oh-so-sad for Tatsuya? ;-)

Honestly, it’s almost inconceivable that this isn’t parody. Well, it’s not. And yes, this all gets “explained” later on, but in the end it’s in-world excuse to out-of-world wish-fulfillment.

Being Mibu is Being Petty:

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei / The Irregular at Magic High School episode 5 anime review - Shiba Tatsuya, bring change for us!

Last week, Tatsuya scolded Mibu for not thinking ahead, for spouting slogans and not actually thinking of what it is she wants. So she had time to think it through. So, what are the results of her ruminations on the topic? “I want to be treated equally!” So Tatsuya naturally goes, “Yes, what does that mean?” – “Same treatment!” – “Teachers?” – “Er, no.” – “You already get equal money and space for clubs,” – “Err, err, we want to be treated the same!”

In other words, Tatsuya is handed a strawman to dismantle. Mibu is treated as a puppet. She had time to think of her demands, but she can’t think of anything. She is treated equally, and anything she gets less, well, it can’t be helped!

It’s a bit poor, it’s painting those who want equality as misguided fools who can do nothing but spout slogans, with no real depth to their arguments. That’s going to be a bit problematic once later this episode we see Mayumi championing more equality as well, eh?

“I am disgruntled, but I can’t come to anyone with complaints. I will make the best of this situation, and get what I want out of it.” – An admirable message, where everyone should do everything on their own, and systematic discrimination is treated as immaterial. If only the world had been this simple.

Also, this is something that continues throughout the series, “I will not blame the school for the childishness of my fellow students.” Well, I agree with him. My point here is just to point out how Tatsuya is a “lone and self-sufficient entity”, who treats everyone else as insects, to be ignored or crushed, should they oppose him. He’s that much more powerful than they are.

Tatsuya is a Rules-Lawyer:

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei / The Irregular at Magic High School episode 5 anime review - Shiba Tatsuya the Rules-Lawyer

Last episode I said the following:

Tatsuya, ever the one to be precise in every deed, word, or thought. Only Kirihara used magic, because Tatsuya stopped his allies from being able to cast any. Mari did not ask if others had tried to cast magic, after all. He’s a dirty rules-lawyer, he’s more like a GM. And we all know the GM (Game Master, tabletop RPG term) is God.

And now we see the rules-laywer Tatsuya again. While others are free with their words, he is ever so precise. He is like an automaton, no feelings, but precision is paramount. He said he’ll assure Mibu’s safety, and that they will be negotiated with. No one said they’ll be free when negotiations occur, or that anyone but Mibu will do the negotiations. So much for conversational implicatures…

And here we see it as again, Tatsuya is an adult, while Mibu and her comrades are but whiny brats – “You double-crossed us!” – “We will talk with you, but that does not mean your measures are something we can overlook.” – And then Mibu just surrenders to Juumonji’s words. They act, without thinking, and the barest moment to reconsider would show them the folly of their ways, but they are too foolish to do even that, blinded by the most insidious of curses, ideology.

“We want change! But we want you to figure out what and how to do it!” – Yeah, the “coalition” truly is depicted as a bunch of children crying and wanting to be given everything, without having to work for it. This is exactly what proper meritocracy opposes, where what you obtain should be commensurate with your effort, but this sort of argument is also the one levied by those who espouse “Fake meritocracy” (where their starting positions are much better): “You don’t really want to work! You just want to be handed social security payment, which I worked for!”


Systematic Logic, Accepted Discrimination, “Believe in Yourself!”:

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei / The Irregular at Magic High School episode 5 anime review - The cowardly weeds didn't want peace!

“I’m afraid of a mental impression turning into an emotional debate.” – “Meaning you’d never lose a logical debate?” – “Indeed.”

“Our” side is the logical one, the mature one. “Their” side is the one that can only win by appealing to emotions, to demagoguery. Strawmen aplenty.

Shocked TatsuyaShocked Miyuki! The president is willing to accept the fact the school may not run perfectly, and there might be changes they could make to accommodate others, which means even thinking of others as worthy of your time and ear :o

“Yes, not only the strong call the weak, weak, but there are also those amongst the weak who had given up, and call themselves by these very same names.” – Mayumi is another believer in “Never give up, believe in yourself, keep working hard, and you too could get to the top!” – But this school system may be unintentionally too close to reality. There are 100 Blooms, anyone beyond that is a Weed.

No matter how hard they work, many will be forced to remain Weeds. There’s only room for so many in first-class, and everyone else is second-rate citizen. “Everyone work hard and you’ll get to the top!” is a lie. The system will not permit it.

Heh. Do you know what the Weeds’ representatives looked so distraught here? It’s because Mayumi had persuaded everyone. They didn’t really want to end discrimination, as much as they wanted to incite unhappiness. Mayumiwon, and thus peace will be maintained. Thus the “terrorists” are unhappy.

Also, earlier Mayumi said she’ll win using logic and is afraid of an emotional debate, but didn’t she end up appealing to the students’ emotions? “These three years matter to us all!” and “Believe in yourselves, don’t give in to this mental barrier!”

So, being children, what do those who had been defeated both in logic and emotions, and who never truly sought peace do? They flip over the table! They resort to violence! They are children, but as adults, they’re terrorists.

Well, some action should be had next episode. I hope they’ll conclude it with one episode and not two. We need to get to the second arc, already.

Episode Thoughts:

It actually wasn’t a bad episode. For a shounen action show, there sure is a lot of talk and very little physical action, eh? We’ve had verbal sparring, but the opponents are such flimsy strawmen it’s hard to take seriously, and HanaKana’s “Soft voice” isn’t the best to have made the speech feel as anything more than another time-passer.

Well, next episode should give us action, and the next arc a lot more besides.

This episode wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very exciting, and very little new was actually covered. You’ve got all these actors, but the characters’ personalities can’t truly support them. Mibu Sayaka is very well-acted, but her character is such that crumples and goes quiet at every turn, because her role is to be weak and easily deflated, for now.

Return to the Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei Episodic Notes page.

8 comments on “Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei Episode 5 – The Weekly Strawmen Deconstruction

  1. Artemis says:

    I’ve seen you mention the next story arc a couple of times now, and always in more favourable terms than the current one. Does that mean it has a lot more action going on? Because if so then I’m vaguely curious, but I’m also not sure how much longer I can wait for it while watching a bunch of people standing around talking and drinking cups of tea. (Seriously, this show has nearly as much tea being drunk as K-On!.)

    • Guy says:

      Next arc has a lot more action. It’s basically a magical athletics competition. Also, a lot more fights.

      The next episode or two, if they stretch Enrollment all the way to episode 7 should have a bunch of fights.

      And yeah, the author truly didn’t get the memo of “starting strong”, and the first arc is the worst. Author is in love with info-dumping, so he’s making sure to infodump everything here, rather than realize it’s more interesting to throw you into the world and show you things as you go along :<

  2. iblessall says:

    “What is the point of having such an OP protagonist if you don’t let him fight?” has been my question for this arc since the first couple episodes.

    Tatsuya is wasted on brain-work. Listening to him ramble about faux-scientific jargon is the dullest part of the show; just let the man kick some baddies around.

    Not to mention the fact that I can’t laugh about the incompetence of the dialogue when it’s just the characters stringing together sets of fancy sounding words.

    • Guy says:

      Same as “What is the point of incest if it never goes anywhere?” perhaps? They want to keep teasing you.

  3. lifesongsoa says:

    I don’t want to pick a fight. I hope you understand that I wouldn’t even bother arguing with you over this if not for the fact that you are a blogger whom I have a degree of respect for. So I hope you won’t take my criticism as an insult. More than anything else I want to illustrate my frustration with your approach more so than your opinions. Yes I hate the world problematic, but I have very good reasons for hating it. I value your opinion, but I also find that the value I see here is somewhat detached from the actual show, both in this post and in your post on meritocracy.

    “It’s a bit poor, it’s painting those who want equality as misguided fools who can do nothing but spout slogans, with no real depth to their arguments.” This is often a real problem with people who call for social justice. One I am happy to see illustrated. Why exactly do you have a problem with this straw man? I wish you would spell it out instead of using the word problematic.(that word is nonsense, I have no idea what you mean by it other than as a slur against the show and an implication that your own political/philosophical ideas do not line up) Furthermore your logic is flawed here. You are the one painting this as an allegory, not Mahouka. Don’t tell me I am ignoring the subtext of the story because I’m not. The intentions of the author mean nothing to me in this context. I am not reading his intentions, I am engaged with his fiction. Those are very different things.

    You see a problem with the portrayal of events of Mahouka, but I think you are ignoring the implications on the actual story. Everything Tatsuya does holds up logically and is consistent within the story. Mibu is lacking goals and he is wise to notice it. When I’ve asked people shouting for social justice what they want to accomplish, my experience has often been identical to Tatsuya’s. In this case I can only see Tatsuya as correct. The people calling for equality in this story are immature. This straw man is one that needs debunking. Do you think this logic has no value in the real world and is misleading? Or are you simply offended that Mibu isn’t as perfect as Tatsuya? Does this story need to present both sides of the argument in equal portions? I don’t think it does. You aren’t making that connection very clear.(again the word problematic is nonsense.)

    I see you using the words “depiction” and “portrayal” like those things should be important to me simply because they exist and I find it undermines your position and interpretation of the subtext. You are looking for real world allegory from a position that is one sided. I say that because you’re interpretation is biased in favor of finding the subtext negative despite the fact that it is illustrated as correct in the story and you do so without illustrating how it is negative or what it negatively impacts. Note: I am not saying that you don’t have a point, I am saying that you aren’t making it clear to me. You are not debunking the actual ideas presented by the story. You are simply illustrating them and insulting them. It seems to me you are instead insisting they shouldn’t be considered in the first place because they are bad.

    When I look at the characters in this story I see things that make sense. They are crying children, they are backed by terrorists, they are immature. You aren’t refuting these things, but then you call it problematic. Problematic to what? Is equality so fragile that it will shatter if we apply critical thinking to it? Won’t questions simply deepen our understanding of what a thing is? Why does a challenge have to equal a slur? The implication that someone might actually believe that equality needs to exist in some protected space away from critical thinking scares me far more than any message from Mahouka.

    There is plenty of room for challenging the ideas presented in this show and I can agree with that, but you seem to imply there is no room for challenging the ideas the show itself challenges or that challenging them is in an of itself a negative thing. Or even that somehow this is a form of subliminal brainwashing that will turn people into objectivists. That is the subtext I am getting out of your message. ;) And in this case I am interested in your intentions.

    • Arbitrary_greay says:

      I agree that this post isn’t the best articulation of “things wrong with this episode.” As with Guy’s Mahouka editorial, it somewhat assumes that the readers already understand the real-world comparisons that make the implications of what Mahouka is championing a little scary, which means that people who aren’t already coming from Guy’s perspective have that much less access to his argument. (I think Draggle’s post on this week’s episode does a better job of running down the problems)

      Yes, some social justice warriors spout slogans and have no depth to their arguments, just like some of their conservative counterparts. Yes, the story may be internally consistent. Yes, it’s okay to portray the opponents as shallow in stories.

      However, that last one only works when the in-story conflict is equally shallow, or when the theme of the story is to point out the dangers of shallow activism. Mahouka is not that. As Guy says in the Week 5 impressions, Mahouka is trying to be a “bona-fide political text,” seeking to legitimize its characters and themes, which means that it has a duty to fully portray the issues it politicizes. If the opponents are not true, then the proponents cannot be considered true, either. Mahouka seeks to cast Tatsuya as in-the-right, but only defeating people that don’t even fully understand the debate means that we cannot consider Tatsuya’s position as right or wrong. Therefore, setting aside real-world implications and power-fantasy media-influence philosophies and all that, pointing out that all of Tatsuya’s opponents are strawmen shows how the story is failing its own storytelling goals.

      If the story was not concerned with making us take Tatsuya seriously, then the opponents being shallow wouldn’t be a problem. However, it does want us to worship Tatsuya, so we can’t just let the poorly-written opposition slide.

      “Problematic” is short-hand for all of that media-influence philosophy stuff, about what the portrayal of things with negative real-life implications in media says about its audience and society, and how it may help propogate those implications, etc.

      • lifesongsoa says:

        Draggle’s post seems like intentional hyperbole to me. I don’t think he is taking the show very seriously. That or he doesn’t understand the statements Mahouka is making in the first place.

        What exactly is the point of writing to illustrate something from a position of assumed understanding? I don’t think Guy is doing that, at least not on purpose.

        A duty? A duty to what and for what purpose? Shallow? If it were shallow we wouldn’t be wasting our time discussing it. Mahouka illustrates something I’ve seen happen numerous times in real world arguments. I think you may be misunderstanding Tatsuya in the first place. He doesn’t care about politics and that is an important part of his position. Tatsuya’s position is infallible by design. If you don’t see that I think you are missing the statements that are being made. The story hasn’t failed at any goal I’ve seen it establish. Has it portrayed social activists in a negative light? Absolutely, that is why we are talking about it. But it is important to note that it has done so successfully. That is why so many of us are talking about it.

        It is important to note that the things that take us out of a fictional story can sometimes have more to do with us rejecting it because of something we don’t like than the failings of said story by its own merits. Mahouka is a strong case of that I think.

        A story with a protagonist we are supposed to like isn’t anything new. I can’t help but think your problem with him is that his position, as you see it, is offensive to you. You call Mahouka consistent and poorly-written all at the same time. I don’t think you understand Tatsuya’s position. He is caught in the middle of a political situation, but he doesn’t care about politics. Trying to see Mahouka in black and white is missing the point entirely. Tatsuya doesn’t seem to care if he is black, white or something in the middle as long as he can do what he wants. That portrayal seems obvious to me. His sister cares, but he doesn’t. That is an important nuance to recognize I think.

        “Problematic” is short-hand for whatever the person using it wants it to be. My problem with it is that it illustrates nothing. You might as well say “I don’t like something about this thing” or “Something about this thing bothers me and it should bother you as well.” Ironically both of those statements have more meaning than “problematic” does.

        • Arbitrary_greay says:

          Draggle’s post is intentional hyperbole, taking the ideals Mahouka espouses (or the implications of the ideals Mahouka espouses, which can be independent of Mahouka’s author’s intentions) to exaggerated conclusions that, sadly, can be found in real life, “justified” in real life by said ideals.

          No, I don’t think Guy is doing it on purpose. But “writing to illustrate something from a position of assumed understanding” isn’t that uncommon. If a blogger already knows the perspectives their commenting regulars have, he/she may write with them in mind, use inside jokes, etc. Assumed understanding may also include definitions, as with Guy’s use of meritocracy and objectivism.
          Is that good writing? Maybe not, but whether or not that’s okay depends on the author’s intent for the piece. (Who will read it? Does he/she want responses? Is he/she just venting, or does he/she want to lay out a clear argument? Is he/she intending to respond to comments, and whose comments?)

          Tatsuya’s position is infallible by design.
          This is why the story fails. The story’s goal is ultimately “Make the audience think Tatsuya is awesome.” Nothing wrong with that.
          One of the mechanisms by which the story aims to make us think Tatsuya is awesome is the sub-goal “Tatsuya is always right.” Because he’s just better than the other people, and one way to show that is to show that the other people are wrong and he is enlightened on the thing they are wrong about.
          This is where his opponents need to be multi-faceted, because all that needs to be done to disprove that “Tatsuya is always right” is to provide one counter-example. As many of the critics have pointed out, there are many valid counter-examples to the ideals Tatsuya has espoused, but by the story’s design, said valid counter-examples are not brought up, because the only existing opponents are immature ones.
          This undercuts the legitimacy of Tatsuya’s infallibility, (he’s not infallible, the author just hand-waved any valid counter-examples) and so to the audience, the goals of “Tatsuya is always right” and “Tatsuya is awesome” cannot be considered true or false, and the story has failed to achieve its goal.

          Tatsuya not caring about politics doesn’t matter at which the story makes him politically infallible to further its own goals. In some ways, it makes it even more important for the political views that he doesn’t care about to be legimately proven as right. A better method would have been his fighting to stay out of this political situation because he doesn’t care. As soon as he picks a side, whether or not he truly cares about that side, that side must be proven as right, or he just looks like a dick, and the story’s goal would have to shift to “Tatsuya is awesome, despite being a bit of a dick, and not always being right,” which is a path many other stories take, but that Mahouka is not taking.

          I agree with you about how “problematic” is pretty much a nonsense term these days. Sometimes I still use it as lazy shorthand in my writing, though, because of laziness and assuming that the people who manage to find the blogs I use it in know what I mean by it. Full circle to assumed understanding! Man, I’m good. :P

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